The Power Of Malevolence

Situations I am powerless to change make me crazy. Like most “control freaks” (my children’s all-too-accurate accusation), I’m okay with life problems that are fixable; tell me the only way to solve X is to climb mountain Y, and I’ll pull on my hiking boots. But the problems that most frequently make their way onto this blog are of a different order.

I think I have a lot of company among the ordinary citizens of this country and world. Unlike the self-styled revolutionaries on the radical Right, who far too often think possession of an AR 15 makes them powerful, we see ourselves as well-meaning individuals with very limited abilities to effect social or political change–as small cogs in the machineries of our respective societies.

Some individuals, however, do exercise disproportionate power–and the ways in which they do so illuminate an important imperative– the need to dismantle global oligarchies. For every “nice” billionaire whose philanthropies the powerless applaud and encourage, a darker mogul is making the world a much worse place.

Rupert Murdock is a prime example. A while back, an essay by Thom Hartmann in Common Dreams enumerated the multiple ways in which Murdock has worked to destroy democracy worldwide. Here’s the lede:

What country in its right mind would allow a foreign entity to come into their country, set up a major propaganda operation, and then use it to so polarize that nation that its very government suffers a violent assault and its democracy finds itself at a crossroads?

Apparently, the United States. And we’re not the first, according to former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Writing for The Sydney Morning Herald (the Australian equivalent of The New York Times) Rudd called Rupert Murdoch and his rightwing news operations “the greatest cancer on the Australian democracy.”

“The uncomfortable truth is,” Rudd wrote, “since the coup of June 2010, Australian politics has become vicious, toxic and unstable. The core question is why?”

Hartmann points out that Murdoch’s empire isn’t really a news organization–that it most resembles and operates as a political party, “acting in pursuit of clearly defined commercial interests, in addition to his far-right ideological world view.”

Brexit–which is currently wreaking economic havoc in the UK–would never have passed without the propaganda promulgated by the newspapers and media owned by Murdock in that country.

In the U.S., Fox News has from its inception been the political echo chamber of the far Right. It’s unlikely that the GOP’s devolution into the Trump party would have occurred without Fox’s deliberate campaigns of misinformation and propaganda.

Murdoch’s positions aren’t at all ambiguous, Rudd noted. They’re simply pro-billionaire/pro-oligarch and thus, by extension, anti-democracy.

“In Australia, as in America,” he wrote, “Murdoch has campaigned for decades in support of tax cuts for the wealthy, killing action on climate change and destroying anything approximating multiculturalism.
“Given Murdoch’s impact on the future of our democracy,” Rudd added, “it’s time to revisit it.”

Hartmann quotes Steve Schmidt, former advisor to George W. Bush and John McCain, and now a “Never Trumper”:

“Rupert Murdoch’s lie machine is directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, the poisoning of our democracy and the stoking of a cold civil war. There has never been anything like it and it is beyond terrible for the country. Bar none, Rupert Murdoch is the worst and most dangerous immigrant to ever arrive on American soil. There are no words for the awfulness of his cancerous network.”

What Hartmann’s essay does well is illuminate the danger oligarchies pose  to the planet and those of us who live on it. When a few people control the overwhelming majority of wealth and power in a society, it is suicidal to simply hope for their benevolence.

What Hartmann’s essay fails to do is offer a remedy–and that brings me back to my opening admission. What do we do–what can we do– about the cancer of Fox “News” and its clones? Past comments have stressed the importance of education in critical thinking, and that is surely part of the long-term answer.

If we make it to the long term.

We need to cut the oligarchy off at its knees sooner rather than later–and that will require a significant  increase in tax rates for the oligarchs, along with an international effort to eradicate the various tax havens that allow these predators to hide their assets.

That won’t happen in the U.S. until the mindless cult that was once a political party is resoundingly rejected.  At this point, our overriding need is to defeat the GOP monster that Murdock’s excessive power has created and maintained.

All individuals can do is work to get out the vote. It will have to be enough.


  1. Agree wholeheartedly. I have two friends who feel it is their duty to comment on anything I post on my social media. One was a neighbor for many years, the other was a mentor during my early years in my former career. They are both so deluded about Trump and the GOP, despite all the facts and evidence, and are caught up in “yes, but…”, or “whatabout”, etc.
    Yesterday I watched Judy Woodruff’s segment on PBS Newshour. It was a panel survey of former Trump voters. Every single one of them said that they think the election was stolen, that Hillary should have been arrested, that Trump is being picked on unfairly, and they would vote for him, for the third time, despite all the evidence that he incited an insurrection and withheld top secret documents, defying a court-ordered subpoena. Every single one.
    I am truly disheartened, and I do not know what to do about it.

  2. Sheila writes, “What country in its right mind would allow a foreign entity…”

    As I predicted years ago on this blog, Americans will soon wake up to ask what Sheila is asking today: “What can we do about the oligarchies infesting our US landscape?” They aren’t just foreign like Murdoch. They’re domestic as well.

    In the “Twitter Files” given by Elon Musk to Matt Taibbi (an independent journalist), the government has been in censorship mode to protect the oligarchy. The large security state built up is being used against the right and left willing to hit the streets to protest environmental devastation, energy policies, social policies, etc. Guess who has been there to quash all uprisings?

    It’s the same across the globe. Thom Hartmann is dead on in his analysis. So is Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald, Pepe Escobar, The Grayzone, etc. Independent news where editorial control is not under oligarchy control.

    It’s not a right-left issue. It’s a top-down issue and they control the security-state apparatus and have been censoring, even jailing (Julian Assange), and dismembering (Jamaal Khashoggi) journalists who tell the truth.

    We have an exciting case brewing with the PGA wanting to sell to Saudi Arabia. The Oligarchy is stifled because it is clearly sportswashing, but the money is plentiful. What will they do? It’s an interesting case study.

    Most politicians (either aisle) won’t even use the word “oligarchy.” They flatter them with “donor or job creator.” 😉

  3. Copied and pasted from the National Library of Medicine: “Despite the substantial heritability estimates for psychological traits, their precise genetic foundation from a molecular perspective remains elusive. We summarize findings and advances from more than twenty years of research into the molecular genetics of personality and other psychological traits. We describe how the candidate gene approach has – despite its appealing theoretical foundations – often (but not always) failed to point towards replicable associations between genetic polymorphisms and behavioral traits. The genome wide analysis approach on the contrary has become more fruitful in recent years and pointed towards reliable genetic associations. Results from genome wide scan studies (GWAS) are currently leveraged to explore gene-behavior associations through genetic correlation and polygenic score prediction which are important steps towards a precision medicine where treatment options are tailored to a patient’s individual biology. But it is also true that future work needs to take a closer look at GWAS findings to link the growing list of statistical associations to biopsychological theory. We argue that research strategies from the candidate gene approach can be used to address these issues – given that necessary precautions are taken to avoid the problem of false-positive associations.”

    Sheila regarding “cutting the oligarchy off at its knees; “That won’t happen in the U.S. until the mindless cult that was once a political party is resoundingly rejected. At this point, our overriding need is to defeat the GOP monster that Murdock’s excessive power has created and maintained.”

    Can we be fighting a losing battle against the strengthened “staunch Republican” genetic growth since the 1970s? It is obviously a psychological factor. I grew up in a staunch Republican family; some of their beliefs support democracy but, it is as if they cannot stop themselves from supporting and voting for any Republican on the ballot. Trump has proven true the old adage that, “Anyone in America can grow up to be president.” Malevolence permeates the Republican party to dangerous levels, life and death levels, “survival of the fittest” has become survival of the richest, forcing the rest of us into a “fight or flight” stance. And it has shown symptoms in the Democratic party by those who, more than likely want to be president themselves, are using President Biden’s age to force him out of their way. Like the different levels of Covid-19; deadly for many but minor symptoms for others, we are living in a political Pandemic and our only vaccine is our vote. I know those who gladly accepted the Covid-19 vaccines but refuse to register or vote to save themselves.

    Return to Sheila: “All individuals can do is work to get out the vote. It will have to be enough.”

  4. We need to convince the Congress that we must have a right to refuse to pay for the use of any network we never watch, in order to get one we do. We need a law requiring providers, like Comcast to give us cafeteria style selection of things we pay for. I’m sure many of you are aware that Tucker only had one paying sponsor (the pillow guy)! You and I carried the burden of presenting his trash. That’s reason enough to vote blue.

  5. Murdoch was welcomed into this country by St. Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s minions also fast-tracked Murdoch’s citizenship. So, to all the points made above, it has been a Republican initiative to destroy democracy for the sake of the oligarchs. Reagan’s administration also went to great lengths to try to eliminate the Department of Education. Propaganda plus an un-educated populace is the formula for fascist dictatorships.

    And here we are. The mindless (literally) who would follow the wretched Trump to the gates of Hell are barely worth considering. Woodruff’s “expose'” was for the sake of selling fear from the left. Meanwhile, the Murdoch machine, and its clones, sell fear from the right. The gun lobby bribes the fear-mongers from the right.

    Sadly, I learned I was too old to emigrate to New Zealand, so I guess I’ll just have to stay and fight. Will we be able to avoid a HOT civil war? Will the oligarchs win and discover that their house of cards will catch fire and burn them too?

    Not to put too fine a point on it, the oligarchs are a one-trick pony with money and wealth as their only issue. As my favorite socio-biologist Rebecca Costa has written, humans have evolved much faster socially than they have biologically. That means we’re operating a massive population and complex societies with a caveman’s brain.

  6. Robert Reich and the Daily Kos are both sponsoring movements to get Fox News off the air.

  7. Vernon,

    Have you been taking notice of all the oligarchs in Russia who have been mysteriously falling out of windows, or otherwise having fatal “accidents” over the last 17 months?

  8. Thankfully, Fox spews is blocked on my cable network unless I pay more to see it. No thanks.

    Just as an example, Swisscom removed RT (Russia Today) from our cable access the day after Russia invaded Ukraine. It has not returned. This is supposed to be an independent country that doesn’t take sides on conflicts, but this was definitely applauded by the citizens of Switzerland. They have hosted several Ukrainian families in the country that escaped. One of the families is working at a local restaurant nearby.

    In the same vein, Prince Harry is suing the tabloids for tapping the royal family members’ phones and is finally getting his day in court. Dominion was granted 787 million for their defamation suit and Tucker Carlson finally has been silenced. I have no idea why Hannity or Ingraham are still broadcasting either. There were text messages to prove they were lying.

    Murdoch unfortunately is now a citizen of the US because I believe I read that Reagan fast tracked his citizenship! Let’s blame Reagan again too.

    We must insist on “truth in reporting” because otherwise we will continue to see Chyrons on Fox displaying headlines like Tuesday evening that read: “wanna be dictator speaks after having his opponent arrested today. “ We must shut down these lie masters or we can kiss our democracy goodbye, kinda like how Brexit happened. I know several UK citizens that live here in Switzerland that felt betrayed by their countrymen after the vote tally. They were really upset!

    What is it going to take to shut Fox up? How can we do that? Anyone?

  9. In re Theresa’s contribution > Perhaps a redefinition of “freedom of speech” is the answer to the dilemma. Trouble is, the Murdochs and others of their ilk have the means to exercise such freedom on a massive scale while we economic peasants do not. While we are figuring out a way to effectively exercise such a “right” let’s vote blue so that such a possibility can come to fruition. We have no choice but to start from where we are, and here we the Fox-weary are in our attempt to save (and hopefully strengthen) the democracy we are told we have by those who would destroy it. Vote!

  10. CGH, I’d just like to get all of the right wing media unbundled from my cable package. Let me choose on a channel by channel basis what I want to watch. I suspect I could get my cable bill cut down by 2/3 if I got rid of all of the garbage I don’t watch, with a corresponding drop in revenue for all of those junk channels out there.

  11. I forgot to mention that Alexander Vidman, has asked if Congress has the power to remove Fox Spews from the Armed Force Network that broadcasts on every military bases there and abroad. Let’s start there!

  12. CGH,

    Yes. I have followed those reports. I’m going to guess that they were not the “right kind” of oligarchs suited to kissing Putin’s ass 24/7. Trump is a similar psychopath as Putin, just not nearly as smart. That fact gives me hope that he will finish his self-destruction before it’s too late. When/if that happens, the GOP will be utterly without a flag to follow or a person who stirs such hate… at least for a while… and will collapse. What springs from those ashes remains to be seen.

  13. The Washington Post this am has an interesting article on what it is costing us financially by not auditing the the billionaires. It has calculated the cost of the audit, the immediate yield and the yield of the next few years as people become more honest. Once read an article about repeating the message over and over and over until it becomes more mainstream. That’s what propaganda does. So keep repeating the message, Sheila.

  14. Yes, Vernon, we are hugely overextended, socially, backwards biologically.
    Theresa, I am not sure where you are going with that NLM quote. Are you suggesting that,
    or hoping for, ” a precision medicine where treatment options are tailored to a
    patient’s individual biology,” to somehow cure the fools of their twisted thinking?
    If such a thing (highly doubtful) could be developed, who would be in charge of
    administering it? Of deciding who gets it? Could it not be used to twist still more
    Murdoch is from “Mordor,” and “Sauron” is smiling! St. Reagan’s impact on our culture,
    like TFG’s, is ongoing, and both are rancidly odious. The populace needs to become
    “woke” to the damage they have, and will continue to wreck. That is why, at bottom,
    DeSantis fights “wokeness.”
    I’ll stop, now.

  15. Mitch, I’m hoping for a discussion on expanding the limitations we now have on free speech. We have libel laws and laws about inciting to riot. Are there no laws on broadcasting lies? Propaganda?

    We gave Murdoch a “license” to broadcast as if we gave him a powerful car with a gas pedal but no breaks. He has used the freedom we granted him to destroy the country. Insanity!

  16. We are the only country in the world with virtually unlimited freedom of speech. Are we smarter or dumber? No doubt for me, the latter. That’s how we got Citizens United, prescription drug advertising (not when I was a kid), etc.

  17. Like the Mafia of old, The Murdochs rely on others to do the work of wealth redistribution up. The family employs entertainers with pretty faces and winning ways and words. The family weaponizes free speech and political faith to keep the wealth vacuum powered on high and the faith full faithful. Cast the bread of possible power on the waters and they will rise simply because they are starving for it.

    Are we smart enough to regulate such a threat? It doesn’t appear so.

  18. There are laws against libel, slander and, at least in some places, hate speech. I never really understood why public figures are left vulnerable to these crimes, but even so, the rest of us should be able to seek enforcement of those laws. Comments?

  19. Not substantive to the topic, but a thought on “control freak.” I prefer “control enthusiast.”

  20. I, too, watched the roundtable interview and felt it lacked any kind of deep questioning of the panel. Rather disappointed in that people were not asked how they came to the conclusions or beliefs about stolen election, etc. I see the same lack of depth in “on the street” interviews. For example, how do Trump supporters view the duty and decisions of a grand jury or the procedures to get a subpoena. When Trump says “they are coming after me and you are next” – what does that mean to them? I also wonder about the sense of history people have – what do they know of the way Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin came to power? We can not be vigilant unless we know something of history. Murdoch has created the equivalent of Pravda’s manipulation of message and, hence, manipulation of minds.

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